Atwater sales tax goes up .5 percent

FRESNO, Calif.

A voter approved sales tax increase took effect today. Shoppers went about their business in Atwater Monday. most unaware the city's sales tax is now eight percent instead of seven point five

" I totally forgot. I had voted for it, but I totally forgot today is the day," said Elaine Wheeler an Atwater shopper.

Voters narrowly approved the Measure H increase in March. It equates to an extra 5 cents for every $10 paid on taxable items.

" It's too much money. People barely make it with what they have," Ester Villanueve an Atwater shopper.

But supporters say it's necessary to support public safety in the city. The tax is expected to bring in about $1.3 million each year to help improve staffing levels and purchase equipment.

" It's going to save police officers, some of them from being laid off, along with fire, and I'm extremely happy it was passed," said Frank Pietro, Police Chief and City Manager.

Pietro took over as Interim City Manager in August, with the city on the brink of bankruptcy. The police department had lost 10 positions since 2007, and the remaining officers agreed to a 22 percent pay cut late last year to help Atwater overcome its financial crisis.

"We're not out of the woods yet, but with the help of measure h and the budget that was approved two Mondays ago, I think the outlook is getting better for the city of Atwater," Pietro said.

Still some small businesses are concerned the new tax could put too much of a burden on customers and hurt spending as a result

" Taxes are hurting people everywhere you go, and we're trying to do everything we can to everything we can to bring customers into the store to buy, but if they don't have that extra money, it's hard. It's hard for everyone," said Greg Running Elk a Passadori's Hardware Employee.

Chief Pietro says he will make recommendations for exactly how to spend the Measure H money, but an advisory committee and the city council will have to approve any spending. This tax will last a maximum of ten years.

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